Fiji election: opposition leader disputes results as vote count continues

Fiji’s opposition leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, has alleged irregularities in voting data while calling for calm, as counting continued in the country’s national election.

Provisional results had the opposition People’s Alliance party hovering in the mid to low 40s and incumbent prime minister Frank Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party in the mid-20s four hours after polls closed. The results were taken offline for a number of hours and, when they returned, the results had flipped.

Rabuka’s complaint stems from what the elections supervisor said was a glitch in the app used to display updated voting results. Rabuka said the new data didn’t match the raw data the party has from polling stations.

“Everybody was probably taken by surprise last night at the turn of events,” he told the press on Thursday morning. “We were ahead in the count. When the systems came back on there was a big change, not in our favour.”

The claims from Rabuka were rebuffed by Fiji’s election supervisor, Mohammed Saneem, who blamed the glitch on voter data being uploaded to the app, rather than incorrect polling data within the system. He said an interruption during the transfer of data to the app mismatched data to the wrong candidates.

“Hence the vote numbers changed for certain candidates who suddenly got a lot of votes in the app,” he said. The data had to be re-uploaded, which, he said, fixed the “anomaly”.

A multinational observer group led by Australia, India and Indonesia monitored polling booths and said it was continuing to monitor the electoral process.

Voter turnout was less than 60%, which analysts said was the lowest in a decade.

Rabuka said he would petition the president and make a complaint to the Fijian Elections Office and said he did not have faith in Saneem to remain impartial.

He maintained he would accept the loss if it was verified by independent and opposition scrutineers after any appeals and called for the public to remain calm in a nation marred by coups. “There is no reason for us to agitate. Let us wait until all the courses for redress have been explored,” he said.

In 2006, Bainimarama instigated a coup and was installed as prime minister the year after, before leading FijiFirst to majority government at the 2014 and 2018 democratic elections.

Rabuka is a former prime minister who instigated a coup in 1987 before bringing back democratic elections in 1992 and led the country through to 1999.

The final vote tally will be reported by Sunday.

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